About CESP

The Center for Existential Studies and Psychotherapy (CESP) is an open, not for profit community of psychotherapists interested in the relationship between existentialism and psychotherapy.

Grounded by an awareness of our mortality, existentialism is a powerful approach that focuses on universal aspects of the human condition. These factors include freedom, responsibility, aloneness, guilt, and the search for meaning. These distinctive features of existential thinking can be applied to all types of psychotherapy.

CESP was founded in 2014 by Washington, DC based psychotherapists Jane Prelinger, MSW, and Michael Stiers, PhD.  The two psychodynamic clinicians shared an interest in existentialism, and were curious about how an existential sensibility could enhance their work with patients. Together, Prelinger and Stiers began to convene groups of therapists interested in exploring existential themes in their clinical work, and lives, using film, literature, poetry, and philosophy.

Our Thoughts on Inclusion

We, the core faculty of the Center for Existential Studies and Psychotherapy, regard the persistence of gross social inequities in the United States as a betrayal of “the proposition that all [humans] are created equal.” We oppose societal structures and attitudes that foster or tolerate inequity on the basis of any individual or group attribute, including race, gender, sexuality, religion, class, ability, language, appearance, or national background. The tenacity of bigotry in our culture makes it urgent to keep addressing these matters. At times, during programs or discussions we’re sponsoring, we may shift from the planned topic to questions of diversity and privilege as they arise. We regret that we’ll sometimes handle such situations imperfectly. We’re committed to learning from our mistakes, and we’re committed to ongoing examinations of our own biases, conscious and otherwise. These commitments are central to our values. Those values include the following propositions:

    • We are defined not by the circumstances we’re thrown into, but rather by what we choose to do, say, or think within those circumstances. We always have decisions to make, including the decision to avoid making an active choice.  Passivity lets no one off the hook of responsibility. 
    • We all share a common humanity and we are all more different from each other than we can imagine. Both are true. Both are grounds for mutual generosity and care.
    • Good questions are more important than good answers.
    • Humility is never optional.
    • Uncertainty opens the door for curiosity and learning.
    • People matter more than ideas do.
    • Challenging what we think we know allows us to discover what we do not yet know.

Future Offerings


Existential Therapy and Phases of Development Seminar Series

The focus of these periodic seminars will be on how an existentially oriented therapeutic approach is helpful in working with clients in various developmental phases of life, such as the reproductive phase, middle age, and later life.

NEW SEMINAR SERIES / October 2022 through May 2023

Existential Therapy Workshop: Human Existence In Life And Psychotherapy

Existential therapy refers to a sensibility that focuses on fundamental themes of being human and works with the authentic human encounters of the therapist(s) and patient(s). This approach is not prescriptive but individualized for the therapist, patient, and the present moment.

MEETINGS

This workshop will meet one Friday per month from 9:30 AM ET to 11:00 AM ET over the course of 8 months, October 2022 through May 2023.

MEETING DATES

2022: October 21, November 18, December 16

2023: January 20, February 17, March 17, April 21, May 19

LEADERS

Michael Stadter, PhD, Clinical Psychologist

Jane Prelinger, MSW, Clinical Social Worker

More information on the leaders can be found on the websites below:

www.stadterandprelinger.com

www.centerforexistentialstudies.com

PARTICIPANTS

Practicing psychotherapists, maximum of 8. This will be the 4th year the Workshop has been offered and there are 2 openings for new members in 2022-2023.

FORMAT

Mike or Jane will begin the first 45 minutes of each meeting with brief personal/professional presentations of existential therapy themes and/or discussion of readings. During the second 45 minutes, one participant will briefly present clinical material from on-going therapy with an individual or couple, followed by group discussion, facilitated by Mike and Jane. The group will work together with the goal of providing the presenter with perspectives, countertransference responses, associations and/or suggested (or imagined) interventions/responses. These are NOT formal case presentations but informal offerings of some existential therapy moments (see below) for the group to work with. Since every moment is unique there will be no attempt to arrive at the ”right way” to approach it. Rather, the group will explore and offer responses to the various contours of these therapy moments. The group’s work in applying an existential sensibility to psychotherapy is the core of the seminar.

EXISTENTIAL MOMENTS AND NOW MOMENTS

These could be obvious existential moments involving, for example, life, death, choice, serious illness, trauma, isolation, or the search for meaning. However, a moment could involve something small or commonplace, for example, a momentary misunderstanding, boredom, a shared laugh, etc. A now moment is a moment that “suddenly pops up and is highly charged with immediately pending consequences” (Stern, 2004). The existing framework of the usual and expected is disrupted. This is a moment of kairos when a person is shaken up and change (positive or negative) is especially possible.

READINGS

Some readings will be recommended but not required.

FEE

$600.00 for the series of 8 seminars. 12 CEUs.

LOCATION

Online on Zoom to include participants from locations outside of the Washington, DC area and the US.

CONTACT US IF INTERESTED OR FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Mike Stadter
michaelstadter@gmail.com
301-758-5021
Please Note: If connecting from the websites, please include your return email.

Existential Therapy Workshop 4.0: The Work of Carlo Strenger

Existential therapy refers to a sensibility that focuses on fundamental themes of being human and works with the authentic human encounters of the therapist(s) and patient(s). This approach is not prescriptive but individualized for the therapist, patient, and the present moment.

MEETINGS

This workshop will meet one Friday per month from 9:30 AM ET to 11:00 AM ET over the course of 8 months, October 2022 through May 2023.

MEETING DATES

2022: October 21, November 18, December 16

2023: January 20, February 17, March 17, April 21, May 19

LEADERS

Michael Stadter, PhD, Clinical Psychologist

Jane Prelinger, MSW, Clinical Social Worker

More information on the leaders can be found on the websites below:

www.stadterandprelinger.com

www.centerforexistentialstudies.com

PARTICIPANTS

Practicing psychotherapists, maximum of 8

FORMAT

Mike or Jane will begin the first 45 minutes of each meeting with brief personal/professional presentations of existential therapy themes and/or discussion of readings. During the second 45 minutes, one participant will briefly present clinical material from on-going therapy with an individual or couple, followed by group discussion, facilitated by Mike and Jane. The group will work together with the goal of providing the presenter with perspectives, countertransference responses, associations and/or suggested (or imagined) interventions/responses. These are NOT formal case presentations but informal offerings of some existential therapy moments (see below) for the group to work with. Since every moment is unique there will be no attempt to arrive at the ”right way” to approach it. Rather, the group will explore and offer responses to the various contours of these therapy moments. The group’s work in applying an existential sensibility to psychotherapy is the core of the seminar.

EXISTENTIAL MOMENTS AND NOW MOMENTS

These could be obvious existential moments involving, for example, life, death, choice, serious illness, trauma, isolation, or the search for meaning. However, a moment could involve something small or commonplace, for example, a momentary misunderstanding, boredom, a shared laugh, etc. A now moment is a moment that “suddenly pops up and is highly charged with immediately pending consequences” (Stern, 2004). The existing framework of the usual and expected is disrupted. This is a moment of kairos when a person is shaken up and change (positive or negative) is especially possible.

READINGS

There will be readings each month but they will be brief. The readings in the seminar this year will all be by CARLO STRENGER, PHD, a Swiss/Israeli existential psychoanalyst, philosopher, and professor of psychology and philosophy at Tel Aviv University. He authored many articles and books, including “Individuality: The Impossible Project”, and was a political activist in Israel. We were honored to have Dr. Stenger as the CESP keynote speaker at our conference in 2017 and he was a supervisor of Jane’s. As Eagle et al. (2022) wrote in the journal Psychoanalytic Psychology, “One common thread … is his call to embrace, and even celebrate, internal tensions in scholarship, in clinical work, and in life itself. Strenger embodied this philosophy in his constant movement between imbibing great traditions and rebelling against them, between religious adherence and secular doubt, between a deterministic view of human nature and his deep devotion to the human quest for freedom… Stenger saw these assumed contradictions as a space for action. As he wrote in Freud’s Legacy in the Global Era (2015b), “The self’s complexity, far from being an impediment to leading a good life, is one of the most important sources of meaning” (p. 248).

FEE

$600.00 for the series of 8 seminars. 12 CEUs.

LOCATION

The Seminar will likely begin on Zoom but our hope is that covid conditions may permit in-person meetings at some point(s) in the year.

CONTACT US IF INTERESTED OR FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Mike Stadter
michaelstadter@gmail.com
301-758-5021
Please Note: If connecting from the websites, please include your return email.

 

Past / Current Offerings

Reading & Book-signing

Richard Smith, PhD

Saturday, May 14, 2022, 10:30 am – noon

Richard Smith will read from his book Not a Soul but Us, winner of the 2021 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize, and field questions and sign books. We’ll gather in Rock Creek Park at an outdoor picnic shelter that has a roof in case of rain but is otherwise open-air.

Not a Soul but Us is a story told in 84 sonnets, set in a remote village in medieval England, where the bubonic plague pandemic wipes out half the population. Left behind are a 12-year-old shepherd boy and his dog, who keep their flock alive through a brutal winter—and then must figure out how to reconnect with life as it moves forward.

Developmental Seminar One: Working with Clients in the Reproductive Phase

Megan Flood, MSW, and Rachel Freedman, PhD

Saturday, April. 9, 2022, 9 am – 12 pm, EST, via ZOOM

The reproductive phase of life is a time in which clients seek our assistance in finding personal agency, clarifying values and life goals, mourning losses, and setbacks, and experiencing overwhelming joy. In this three-hour seminar, we will examine clinical concerns stemming from the reproductive phase, and seek to explain and elucidate how an existential psychotherapy approach can be useful in helping clients navigate this complex stage. Terror Management Theory (TMT), a relatively new theory used to understand existential concerns, will be introduced and drawn upon to further explain a wide variety of perinatal issues.

Clinical material will be shared to illustrate some of the ways an existential lens can be helpful in work with clients. Specific presenting issues will be covered, including infertility, pregnancy complications, decision-making, the option to remain child-free, breast-feeding issues, and perinatal losses.

  • CEUs: 2.5
  • Cost: $75

Book Club 3.0 – Thought as Mental Action – Psychological Responsibility

Richard Smith, PhD / March – November 2021

  • Oedipus at Colonus (Sophocles)
  • Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)
  • The Winter’s Tale (William Shakespeare)
  • Howards End (E.M. Forster)

Book Club 2.0 – Self-Creation and the Creative Self – Decision Points

Richard Smith, PhD / March – November 2020

  • Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
  • Beloved (Toni Morrison)
  • Measure for Measure (William Shakespeare)
  • Middlemarch (George Eliot)

Book Club 1.0 – Existential Shipwrecks

Richard Smith, PhD / March – May 2019

 The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera) 

 King Lear (William Shakespeare)

 Villette (Charlotte Bronte)

Conferences

The Existential Sensibility: Self and Psychotherapy in an Uncertain World
(Co-sponsored with the Washington School of Psychiatry)
Special guest: Carlo Strenger, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Philosophy, Tel Aviv University
April 7-8, 2017

Movie Nights

Arrival
Julie Mitchell, LPC, Discussant
April 23, 2021

Grey Gardens
Megan Flood, MSW, Discussant
August 20, 2020

Nanette
Charlotte Blutstein, LPC, Discussant
May 17, 2019

Paterson
Barry Wepman, PhD, Discussant
September 15, 2017

Resolved
(Co-sponsored with the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Culture of the Washington School of Psychiatry)
Reginald Nettles, PhD and Michael Stiers, PhD, Discussants
May 6, 2016

The Sheltering Sky
Emily Randall, MSW, Discussant
January 20, 2016

Her
Michael Stadter, PhD, Discussant
September 18, 2015

The Swimmer
Jane Prelinger, MSW, Discussant
May 1, 2015

The Barbarian Invasions
Michael Stiers, PhD, Discussant
February 6, 2015

The Trip
Jane Prelinger, MSW, Discussant
November 14, 2014

Salons

Death Café
CESP Death Café
Jane Prelinger, MSW, Megan Flood, MSW, Richard Smith, PhD, Michael Stadter, PhD, Michael Stiers, PhD
October 20, 2018

An Existential Salon, Featuring the Poetry of Jonathan Stillerman, Ph.D.
Jane Prelinger, MSW, and Michael Stiers, PhD, Discussants
November 18, 2016

Seminars

Existential Therapy: The Workshop 3.0
Michael Stadter, PhD and Jane Prelinger, MSW
October 2021 – May 2022

Existential Therapy: The Workshop 2.0
Michael Stadter, PhD and Jane Prelinger, MSW
October 2020 – May 2021

Existential Therapy: The Workshop 1.0
Michael Stadter, PhD and Jane Prelinger, MSW
October 2019 – March 2020

Topics in Existential Psychotherapy
CESP Faculty and Michael Stiers, PhD and Emily Randall, MSW, Guest Lecturers
October 2017 – May 2018

Supervision Groups
Existential Ideas and Clinical Work
Jane Prelinger, MSW and Michael Stiers, PhD
September 2014 – June 2018

CONTACT US

We can be reached using this form.

Center for Existential Studies and Psychotherapy

4910 Massachusetts Avenue NW
STE 223
Washington DC 20016

cesp.wdc@gmail.com

CONTACT US

We can be reached using this form.

4910 Massachusetts Avenue NW
STE 223
Washington DC 20016

cesp.wdc@gmail.com

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